Count Broccula's veg-head ramblings

My home experiments with vegetarian cooking. Focused on seasonal produce with some vegan stuff thrown in for good measure. I may include random other food-related stuff as I please.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Adventures in sourdough

Well, I decided I wanted to try bread-baking. I have made loaves here and there, but I don't make very many yeasted breads because of the time involved. If you know me, you know that although I love to cook, I don't want to rope myself to the kitchen all day. Still, bread seemed like a challenge I wanted to undertake.

When making sourdough, you have a couple options. You can buy dry sourdough yeast from the grocery store, you can order sourdough starter (many people order it from King Arthur flour), or you can catch some wild yeast. I like a wild card, so I went with the last option.

Essentially, you just put flour and water in a crock or jar, add a little more every 12 hours (or 24, but the web site I thought seemed most trustworthy said 12), and wait for it to get bubbly/frothy and start doubling in volume. For about the first four days, it wasn't doing much, but then suddenly it did! I had bubbles, I had doubling... so I decided on Saturday to make bread.

I knew that the starter wasn't doubling as fast as some do, so I decided to give it plenty of time to proof and rise, and I let it go through three rises.

I proofed it overnight, then sort of got busy in the morning and left the starter sitting around until afternoon. Then I mixed the dough and kneaded it. All it called for was a bit of oil, salt, water, and flour. I chose to go with whole wheat, since I like the flavor. I let it rise three times, and it didn't quite double each time, but almost.

Now, sourdough gets more of that sour flavor the longer it takes to develop, so it didn't bother me that this became an all-day process. The rise may have been slow, but I felt it would enhance the taste.

Finally, just after 8 in the evening (after I'd put the baby to bed), I pre-heated the oven. I had found numerous different cooking methods, and the web site that I was mostly following just said to cook it at 350, but several other sites recommended starting it at a high heat, throwing some water in it to steam the crust, then turning the heat down. I turned the oven to 500 with my baking stone on the lowest rack. Then I left the room for a minute. When I came back, there were flames in the oven.

Yeah, I had forgotten that I'd spilled some pizza toppings in the bottom of the oven, and they totally combusted. I put them out, let everything cool down so I could clean it, then started over again.

When the oven had come to temperature, I threw a shot glass full of water onto the sides of the oven, then quickly shut the door. A few minutes later, I slid the bread, on parchment paper, onto the baking stone. After 5 minutes, I was supposed to turn the heat down and bake it for another 18, I think. I got it out, tapped the bottom to see if it sounded hollow (I guess it did), and left it out overnight, since I didn't want to cut into it until breakfast. I was really nervous about it.

But it was great! It wasn't the super-airy, hole-y texture you get with some breads -- it was fairly dense. But I don't mind dense breads, and it toasted up really nicely. Just as I had hoped, the sour flavor was really present, although not overwhelming, and we had a lovely breakfast.

My first whole wheat sourdough
(Incidentally, this photo is of the two end pieces after we ate the whole middle!)
Coming up soon -- the sourdough pizza crust and the tomato canning class.


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